What to take and what to leave? It's always hard I know - despite the fact that your backpack is tiny and you have to live out of this thing for 5 months. I've written up a list for you of what you can't forget and what you might want to reconsider. As always - please let me know if I've missed anything you think is important and I'll pop it up! Also, if you're a luxury styled traveller, check out my previous post on packing tips for you here.
You need them. It’s pretty simple but I’ve seen backpackers take literally one top, one pair of trousers and then think it’s ok to wear them for months on end. One guy in Australia tried to convince me it’s the best move I could ever make, you don’t have to carry anything and you save money as you don’t have to go to the laundromat, you just have a shower in your clothes are air dry… NO. Minimal is good, but that’s taking it too far. It’s true that washing your clothes can be a budget breaker in Australia, but you can hand wash your clothes in the sink or shower and hang them to dry off your hostel bed as long as you wring them out well.
I’m not going to dictate exactly what clothes you should bring, but you will need some clothes you can do adventure activities in as no matter where you go if you’re with a backpacker crowd you’ll be jumping off something, hiking somewhere or climbing a cliff. So essentially, climate depending you’re going to want things like shorts, tops, some cool light trousers, a jumper even if it’s a boiling place (these either always have aircon that’ll chill you to the bone somewhere or it get freezing in the evenings) and maybe a skirt for heading out in. But remember - minimal! You’re going to need space for all those superb souvenirs. If you’re heading somewhere cold, either specialised equipment will be required so look it up or just long sleeves and warm trousers.
Also - please PLEASE remember to take cool clothes that fully cover you if going to Asia. There are some fantastic temples, and while the locals won’t always make a fuss if you’re not fully covered it’s really rude not to cover up in these religious places. Respect the locals and their cultures. You’ll be hosteling too so take something to sleep in, while sleeping naked can be a great way to make friends they may not be the ones you want to make.
Similar to clothes, I won't dictate to you how many pairs you should take. You can always have them washed and if you're on a beach trip remember that some days you can just survive in your bikini in case you've not packed enough.
Do not pack all your heels. No-one backpacking has heels and if they do, they’re delusional; don’t be delusional. If you need them to get into THAT club, you can buy a pair on the cheap, wear them and pass them on to another backpacker. A hostel I heard about in Sydney would have a section where fellow backpackers could borrow heels that other travellers left so they could get into the dresscoded party places.
What you do need is a pair of good flats that you can walk in for daily use like converses or similar. I use Dude shoes as they’re machine washable, can be packed flat & are SO light for the backpack. I have danced on 5 continents in these shoes and so should you! You’re then going to want a hardy pair of trainers or walking boots for those adventure activities or hikes and finally, your shower flip flops. Shower flip flops will be your lifesaver when you go to wash off the day, and notice that the shower floor has not been cleaned in probably a week. They keep your feet clean and away from other people’s dirt and the scum layer that seems to develop in hostel showers. Shower flip flops are not an actual thing so don’t google them to buy some. They are just waterproof flip flops (or thongs for you Aussies out there) that are normally made of rubber or similar. You can wear them during the day too as regular flip flops and if you’re going for a paddle in a tropical ocean - wear them then too. There are many a fish that lay on the sandy seabed and are so venomous they can kill you if you stand on the so your shoes may save your life (or just prevent your foot from being amputated).
The typical toothpaste, toothbrush, hairbrush, shampoo/conditioner, moisturiser, antibacterial gel, basic make-up & remover, deodorant, sunscreen, after sun; this list could go on forever. Take whatever is relevant to you and your daily routine. Don't worry if you forget any of these though as you can buy all in duty free at the airport or when you arrive. One big one is tampons for the girls, this is something you want to take with you if you're going to need them and depending on where you are you may not want to buy the local version, a little like with condoms...
Please remember you’re going backpacking and not to a ball. Accessories need to be minimal and cheap as when living out of a backpack your favourite earrings will get lost. You will always find cool jewellery in markets so can grab some along the way if you need them! You will however need some hair ties and hair pins to keep it all out the way when adventuring around the world.
First aid kit
See my recommended first aid list under the adventure tab
Chargers & adapters
If you're in the UK like me, no-one seems to have the same plugs as us so get an adapter. If you're hitting a lot of countries you can get a multi adapter that will look after you everywhere, but if not you can google the country and which style plug they use in advance to be prepared. Make sure you have your phone charger, and camera charger too - it would suck to miss out on those trip snaps because you have no way to boost your battery. You can always buy them there but they may not be using your countries normal plug style and could be at a different voltage which can damage your electricals.
I tend to take a mini sewing kit with me everywhere for those little disasters. Padlock for your bag while in transit or for you carry on bag if you're going somewhere known as a pick pocket hub. Headphones for your tunes on the road. A book or your eBook system. Your phone and iPad to go with those chargers you've packed. A money belt or bum bag if you're thinking of roaming the streets in a big city just to keep it safe - and anything else you can think of that you'll need!
Good to get this sorted a week or so in advance. For a long trip organise yourself a travel money card. Depending on which country you’re going to you can get a different card per currency or just have one card to cover you. I would seriously recommend the post office card as they have a mobile app for easy top ups, and I’ve heard STA travel do a good one too.Take a little cash with you though, in the currency of the country you’re going to and if you’re hitting Asia take some US dollars with you, they are great to use to bribe yourself out of dodgy situations.
Can't really get far without it these days.
Depending on where you're going visas come into play. Look it up before you go and apply with plenty of time to get them sorted. They can take up to 8 weeks to to process but there are fast track options if you're desperate. Bare in mind that some places will give you a visa on arrival depending on which nationality you are so just look it up before spending money on a visa you don't need or can get half the price at the boarder.
This is really important especially for backpackers as you will be living life to the full, which sometimes equals a broken limb or other bodily ailments. You will also be spending nights in rooms full of other backpackers with minimal ventilation so the bacteria shall we shared and sometimes makes you sick, or just makes your immune system stronger!
Now please please PLEASE make sure you get good cover with a known company. That extra £30 for that slightly better policy will make your life a million times easier if something goes wrong and you need it sorted quickly or that cash payout. Then ensure it’s a backpacker policy, these generally cover all the adventure activities you may want to join in with such as skydiving and whitewater rafting!
Sorry that this wasn't a bullet point list - if you guys want one though let me know and I can do a proper numbered list with specific items depending on where you're going.